Thursday, July 24, 2014

In Which I Review Extant (1x3)

The truth will out. It always does. However, before you get to the truth, there certainly is an awful lot of lying. This weeks episode of Extant, "Wish You Were Here," is all about the lies we tell ourselves (my child is perfectly normal) and the lies others tell us (surprise! We impregnated you!) The show continues to struggle with trying to have all the science fiction elements, instead of fine tuning one storyline into a cohesive narrative. Why should I care about robot-boy's maybe sociopathy while I'm also caring about alien lifeforms manifesting here on Earth to propagate, or something. I honestly want to see what would happen if they put one storyline aside for a single episode (take your pick, robot-boy or alien pregnancy) and just focused on the other. At any rate, lots of truths and lies are told and now it's up to the characters to figure out what is what. 

It's Ethan's first day at school. After spending most of his life either as a body-less computer or a machine with body, the robot-boy is off to interact with other children. It's an important part of his own evolution into humanity; he needs other children for his development. I think one of the problems I'm having overall with the show is its lack of world building. This is obviously a world that is relying heavily on technology as evidenced by all the fancy high-tech equipment everyone seems to have, but there still seems to be some sort of lingering fear about that technology. The other parents at Ethan's school are nervous about having an artificial intelligence with their children, fearing that Ethan something crazy? It's not made explicit, except that I'm supposed to believe that these men and woman are exposed to machines everyday and find them dangerous. Why do these people find machines dangerous? What sort of machines are they interacting with on a daily basis that leads them to this conclusion? Based on what we've seen so far, the machines, while advanced, are pretty typical: high tech phones, computers. I haven't seen any Judy from the Jettson's type maids roaming the city with their human masters. Outside of Ethan, we haven't been exposed to any other walking/talking/interacting with humans on a social level machines. So the fear seems really unfounded and just a way to create drama. It also creates dramatic irony because while John and Molly insist that Ethan is just another little boy who needs peers, we (the audience) are coming to realize that there is something off about Ethan. He might have been given many ethical tests in a sterile environment but in the real messy world, he's trapping pigeons in boxes to play with them later. And this is something I find interesting (more so than than the on-going alien baby drama). Can a machine who has been given electrical inputs to mimic humanity but is also being raised by humans, turn into a sociopath? And if so, who do you blame? Was it the electrical inputs (human error) or is it the nature of the machine; and if it's the latter what does that mean about artificial intelligence?

The main thrust of the episodes revolves around Molly's birthday party. After being gone for a year, she never got to celebrate so her husband decides to throw her a bash. It's sweet. John is actually very sweet (also, shirtless 3 our out of 3 episodes. I approve). There are lot of people and friends who show up, but Molly seems a bit on edge. This is for a few reasons. Last week, Molly told her boss, Sparks, the news that she's inexplicably pregnant. Sparks now needs to come up with a lie that is good enough to keep Molly's trust. Remember: Molly had been infertile and undergoing extensive fertility treatments with John before leaving for her mission into space. So, the big lie! Sparks and Molly have a meeting at the beginning of the episode in which Sparks tells her that the space program had a covert mission in place in which they were experimenting on astronauts who undertook these year long missions. Using an old sample from Molly's days in the infertility treatments, they implanted her with an embryo and gave it some sort of time-release scientific thing (I don't really get that part). In other words, the baby is John and Molly's and the space program is at fault. It's a clever lie; it allows Molly to believe that she is carrying a perfectly normal child that is also her husband's while at the same time placing all the blame on her work, leaving alien coverups in the dust. There is just one problem, as pointed out by her doctor friend, Sam. In short: paperwork. This space program is a beaurcratic nightmare and there's no way a secret program like this got through. Obviously Sam doesn't watch enough TV; there's always a way for it to get through. Instead Sam wants to do her own blood work on Molly to see if the DNA of the baby is really John's. Yeah, I'm sure the space program will be 100% a-ok with that.

Molly goes to see Harmon to discuss the situation but the resident-crazy has up and vanished. However, Molly does find a clue, a set of intricately woven circular symbols on Harmon's wall. These symbols just so happen to be the same ones that were "burned" (for wont of a better term) on to Molly's stomach in the last episode. In short: there is no way this baby isn't some sort of alien life force. It also seems to be playing havoc on Molly's mind. At the aforementioned party, Molly runs into an old friend, Tim. Tim was Marcus's (the ex who died and who Molly sees in space) brother and has been out of town for a long while. The two spend time catching up and even take a picture together. The problem? He's not really there. Molly looks for him at the party only to be told repeatedly that Tim's not there, and never was. The photo they took together doesn't show Tim at all. The aliens are playing tricks on her mind now! Oh boy! Now Molly makes the some-what-stupid-decision to call Sparks and have him take her into quarantine. Don't worry, deus-ex-Sam-and-Texting saves the day, though how Molly got away from Sparks and managed to vanish with Ethan and John is a mystery (no seriously, how did John and Molly drive back to their house, get their son and vanish without a trace before the men with guns showed up?)

Miscellaneous Notes on Wish You Were Here

--It's obvious from the flashback of John and Molly deciding to raise Ethan as their own that Molly has never been 100% okay with her robot-son.

--"He's a toaster with hair!" Obvious Battlestar Galactica reference is obvious

--"He's not dangerous. He's different, and you don't have to be afraid of different." Good to know that in the future we still have issues of bigotry.

--Julia obviously thinks she's a better mom than Molly. Her bond with Ethan is stronger and I think she really wants to replace Molly in both Ethan and John's life.

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